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Residents say they warned of fire risks before tower blaze

Council chief says he has given personal assurance that issues will be tackled

02 November, 2017 — By William McLennan

The fire damage at Monmouth House in Kentish Town

RESIDENTS have said they warned Camden Council of fire risks for months before a blaze broke out on the 11th floor of their Kentish Town tower block.

Concerns about the safety of vulnerable residents at Monmouth House in Raglan Street had been raised with the Town Hall from as early as June. Neighbours say their requests that the tenants should be viewed as “high risk” and have sprinklers installed were ignored.

Residents said their “fears became a reality” when a fire broke out in the middle of the night last month and began to spread into the communal corridor before it was put out by around 25 firefighters. Following a “near-miss” earlier this year, when a caretaker was able to prevent a pan fire spreading, the council reviewed the safety of vulnerable residents and decided no further action was needed, residents said.

One neighbour, who asked not to be named, said they took matters into their own hands, adding: “Camden Council did a fire audit shortly after this incident, knowing that it had taken place, and declared that [the vulnerable tenant involved] did not fit criteria for any additional fire safety support. Another tenant in the block supplied the vulnerable tenant with gas and smoke alarms out of concern for their safety. Weeks later they were set off on the night of the fire, no thanks to Camden Council.”

Another resident said: “By the time of the second fire, a smoke alarm had been provided, not by the authorities but by the community itself. Not exactly what the concept of ‘care in the community’ is supposed to be about.” The fire brigade said that the blaze on October 13 was believed to have been started by an unattended candle. “Candles are one of the most common causes of fire,” the brigade warned. “It’s really important that you never leave a candle unattended and keep them away from curtains and anything else that can easily catch fire.”

Labour housing chief Councillor Meric Apak, said he had met residents and given a “personal assurance I would address [the] concerns”. He added: “I am working with Councillor [Nadia] Shah [cabinet member for community safety] to address anti-social behaviour and the other individual safety issues and I’ll make sure we deal with the remaining concerns. “I want to assure residents in Monmouth House, and across Camden, that resident safety is our priority.”

The Town Hall is reviewing all fire safety procedures and is awaiting advice from government before making a decision on whether to install sprinklers in high-rise blocks. “Personal sprinkler systems” are considered on a “case-by-case basis through an individual’s risk assessment”, the council says.

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